Three years after the tragic fire in September 2018, the Board of the National Museum/UFRJ and the Executive Committee of the Museu Nacional Vive project (UFRJ, UNESCO and Instituto Cultural Vale) have launched the campaign for the rebuilding the Museum's collection. Furthermore, the Commitment Declaration for Recomposing the National Museum's Collections was also presented, an allusion to the Declaration of the Independence of Brazil signed by Empress Leopoldina on 02 September 1822. Both declarations were signed on the same date.
Although the date marks a tragedy, the director of the National Museum/UFRJ Alexander Kellner highlighted the importance of the initiatives in favour of restoring its collection.
We are fully aware that we will not be successful without intense national and international collaboration. We need specimens of animals and plants, fossils and minerals, ethnographic, historical, archaeological objects, and many others. The estimate is that the new exhibitions, which will occupy around 5,500 m2, will need approximately 10 thousand pieces, presented along with four exhibition circuits
The campaign and the Commitment Declaration aim to demonstrate a clear opening for research institutions, museums, different collectivises representing society and collectors from all over the world to join the National Museum/UFRJ. It is a complex but possible task of re-conducting the oldest Brazilian scientific institution back to its reference position, which can mirror so many others.
The campaign is available on its official website at www.recompoe.mn.ufrj.br where it is possible to learn about other details. In addition, the website contains statements of donors of unique scientific pieces that have now been included in the Museum's collection. For example, the retired Brazilian Diplomat Fernando Cacciatore has donated 27 Greco-Roman works; the Researcher Wilson Savino has contributed with a very relevant African Ethnographic Collection; the Brazilian Indigenous Tonico Benites has donated the Indigenous Ethnographic Collection; the Brazilian Musician Nando Reis has donated the Molluscas Collection; the Professor at the National Museum João Pacheco has donated the Luckesh Collection from the Universal Museum Janneum in Graz (Austria). The idea is to rebuild four exhibition circuits of the National Museum/UFRJ: Historic (1,000 pieces), Universe and Life (4,500 articles), Cultural Diversity (2,500 pieçes), and Brazilian Environments (2,000 pieces).
The campaign is a strategy to reaffirm the importance of democratising knowledge. After all, since its foundation, the National Museum has been a research centre dedicated to natural and anthropological sciences. And, more than ever, we want to be an innovative, sustainable, and accessible museum of Natural History and Anthropology, which promotes the appreciation of scientific and cultural heritage. Through the eyes of science, it invites reflection on the world around us while leading us to dream
Several procedures related to research on collections, institutional articulations, transport, and conservation of donated pieces are already being adopted by the Museum and its partners. In addition, one of the objectives of the Safety and Sustainability Working Group of the Museu Nacional Vive project, coordinated by the National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES), is to develop models for safety and management of the Museum and its collections.
BNDES has a long-term vision to assist cultural institutions. Our work seeks to strengthen the management and governance of institutions, thus promoting sustainability. With the Working Group, we are engaging the National Museum and all partners in discussing the Museum's future management model to carry out its activities with adequate financial support and efficiency
Restoration of the Palace and the Princesses Gardens
The reconstruction of the National Museum/UFRJ is still advancing with the completion of essential services to preserve this Brazilian heritage: the cleaning and protection of ornamental and artistic elements that resisted the fire in 2018. With the adequate protection of ornaments, the Paço de São Cristóvão (São Cristóvão Palace) is ready to receive restoration work on its façades and roofs.
It took six months of specialised work, involving around 50 professionals, including consultants, architects and restorers dedicated to the conservation of ornaments in the historical rooms of the Paço: the monumental marble staircase; of floors and wall paintings; and the 'Bendegó', the largest meteorite ever found in Brazil. In addition, fountains, garlands, benches, and thrones located in another space of great historical value, Jardim das Princesas (The Princesses Gardens), has also been restored.
The work carried out by Construtora Biapó, the winner of a public bid coordinated by UNESCO also resulted in 45 moulds of sculptural ornaments and 75 profiles/models for the reproduction of friezes and crowns mouldings for 29 rooms in the palace. The products generated will serve as subsidies for the development of architectural, restoration and complementary projects.
The team dedicated to supporting the Museum in recomposing the collection can also count on a management assistant for the exhibitions and an advisor in national and international cooperation for collection building.
The actions to protect the historical and artistic elements were guided by a group of specialists in restoration and preservation, reaffirming the Project's commitment to the history of the monument-building and its surroundings. It is a Brazilian society's heritage with inestimable value for science and world culture. UNESCO has also contributed to the development of bibliographic, iconographic, and preliminary texts research for future exhibitions and identifying collections of interest for each exhibition circuit
A Living and Active Museu
During the physical reconstruction and collection recomposing, the National Museum/UFRJ remains active and shares its collection with society. The institution's most recent partnership is with the 34th Biennale of São Paulo. It will show to the public three pieces that well symbolise the institution's resilience:
- The Santa Luzia meteorite, the second largest space object found in Brazil
- A ritxòkò doll, donated by Kaimoti Kamayurá, from the village of Karajá de Hawaló (Bananal Island, Tocantins state, Brazil)
- A citrinin stone was an amethyst before the fire but had its chemical composition altered by the fire heat
"The National Museum is active through the restoration works, the educational actions, the social mobilisations, as well as the meetings and dialogues with its audiences, such as the 34th Biennale of São Paulo. The Instituto Cultural Vale is proud to be part of the Museu Nacional Vive project and sponsor the 34th Biennale of São Paulo, one of the main events on the international art circuit. The works from the collection rescued from the fire will be exhibited during the Biennale helps to tell a story of resilience and life. And, from this meeting, many other ones will happen related to arts, culture, science, and education", says Luiz Eduardo Osorio, Executive Vice President of Institutional Relations and Communication at Vale and President of the Board of the Instituto Cultural Vale.
For the dean of UFRJ, Denise Pires de Carvalho, relevant Project actions will take place that will allow us to celebrate the Bicentennial anniversaries of the Independence of Brazil and the Museum in 2022. UFRJ and the whole society deserve to celebrate. "I thank the partners who are making it possible both the restoration of our National Museum and the construction of a new teaching and research campus for the institution. The Museum is reborn even stronger after its huge crisis aggravated by the tragedy in 2018. The academic community is passionate, strong, and resilient! The dream we've been dreaming together comes true."
About the Museu Nacional Vive project
In response to the enormous challenge of rebuilding the National Museum, the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), UNESCO and the Vale Cultural Institute have signed a technical cooperation agreement to implement the Museu Nacional Vive Project. Currently, the Project has the platinum sponsorship of BNDES, Bradesco and Vale; and the support from the Ministry of Education (MEC), the Federal Bank of Rio de Janeiro, the Legislative Assembly of the State of Rio de Janeiro (ALERJ), and the Federal Government through the Culture Incentive Law. Learn more about the Project at www.museunacionalvive.org.br.